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          LAST ROUND

Vilnius, 22 July 2014

The work of evaluating the implementation of the Operational Programme for the Lithuanian Fisheries Sector 2007–2013 is nearing the end in Lithuania and the programming documents for the fisheries sector for the period 2014–2020 are underway. Therefore, I would like to bring forward several important fisheries related problems, which, to my mind, have not received adequate attention. Lithuanian authorities, politicians and public officials have already been informed about this matter.

Some thoughts about fisheries

Each person is recommended to eat 24 kg of fish or fish products per year. Lithuanians eat about 13-14 kg.
Recreational fishermen catch around 1200–1500 tonnes of fish annually. Commercial fishermen catch about 1500 tonnes of fish in internal waters, though under the Operational Programme 2007–2013 they should catch approximately 1800 tonnes of fish per annum. Poachers and illegal fishermen catch about 1300–1800 tonnes of fish every year, with the annual damage to fish stocks amounting to roughly LTL 30 million (EUR 8.7 million), while cormorants, on their part, catch about 600-800 tonnes of fish. In 2013 the fines for poaching were increased.

On modernisation of fishing vessels

Around EUR 3 million was allocated for modernisation of fishing vessels in the period of 2007–2013. Most of the vessels used for fishing were constructed during the Soviet times, some 30–40 years ago. No one submitted projects for modernisation of vessels as the EU authorities require reducing the capacity of vessels being modernised by 20-30%. It is clear for specialists that once the engine capacity is reduced, vessels will no longer be able to carry out the required functions efficiently. Lithuanian fishermen are aware that the fishing vessels of other EU Member States have become far more powerful as well as technically and economically more advanced compared to Lithuanian fishing vessels long time ago. Lithuanian fishermen do not understand why the EU applies such strict requirements to Lithuania.
Fishermen ask to change the procedure and rules in order to implement the measure on modernisation of vessels for 2014-2020. However, Lithuanian politicians and public officials are still in search of a compromise with the EU colleagues. Questions have to be solved how Lithuanian fishermen could obtain funds for vessel modernisation under favourable conditions.

On the state of Lithuanian fish stocks

According to the commitments set forth in the 2002 Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development, the signatories (Lithuania among them) must restore fish stocks by 2015.
Scientists recommend that according to minimum norms, 748 million units of fish should be introduced to the water bodies of national importance per year. About 180 million units are introduced in Lithuania every year. Due to the shortfall of production capacities and funds and the reorganisation of state-owned fish farming undertakings, Lithuania will fail to meet the commitments expressed in the Johannesburg Declaration.
In 2013 and 2014 the Alliance of Associations “Žuvininkų rūmai” applied to the Ministry of Environment asking to prohibit fishing for a period of one month during spring spawning and to invite fishermen to protect water bodies during spawning as well as to install artificial spawning grounds. The ministry took no actions. It means that the ministry does not pay adequate attention to the issues of enhancement and protection of fish stocks.

On social-economic partners and the set-up of the Monitoring Committee

By decision No C/2007/6703 of 17 December 2007 the European Commission approved the Operational Programme for the Lithuanian Fisheries Sector 2007–2013. To implement the programme, the European Commission had approved the Alliance of Associations “Žuvininkų rūmai” among its social and economic partners. By order of the Minister of Agriculture, the Monitoring Committee also includes the President of the Alliance of Associations “Žuvininkų rūmai” Leonas Kerosierius. The Alliance of Associations “Žuvininkų rūmai” defends the interests of a number of fisheries organisations.
On 15 June 2009 Minister of Agriculture Kazys Starkevičius removed the Alliance of Associations “Žuvininkų rūmai” and its representative Leonas Kerosierius from the Monitoring Committee. Responsible Lithuanian authorities and politicians had for a number of times been informed about Starkevičius’ unlawful actions. The minister did not change his order. It was only after the application to the President of European Council Herman Van Rompuy of 22 December 2011 whose recommendation of 27 January 2012 was followed by the inspection of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office of the Republic of Lithuania that the unlawful actions of the Minister of Agriculture were identified. On 2 March 2012 Mr Starkevičius immediately restored the participation of the Alliance of Associations “Žuvininkų rūmai” and its representative Leonas Kerosierius in the Monitoring Committee. Legal isolation of the Alliance of Associations “Žuvininkų rūmai” in the Monitoring Committee continued for nearly 3 years.
The Alliance of Associations “Žuvininkų rūmai” and its representative participated in the development and implementation of the Operational Programme for the Lithuanian Fisheries Sector 2007–2013. It also participates in developing the programming documents for 2014–2020. However, not once were the alliance and its representative invited to the meetings of social-economic partners. The Ministry of Agriculture did invite its social-economic partners into the meeting of 24 July 2014; however, the representative of the Alliance of Associations “Žuvininkų rūmai” is not invited into the meeting.
The officials of the Ministry of Agriculture approved the following social-economic partners for 2014-2020: 2 organisations representing fishing undertakings in the Baltic Sea and the Baltic Sea Coast, 1 – in the Curonian Lagoon and the lower reaches of the Nemunas River joining 40 undertakings and 1 – in the Curonian Lagoon joining about 8 undertakings. All the said organisations are situated on the Baltic Sea Coast, Klaipėda County. About 60 undertakings fish in the internal waters of other counties; however, there was no place provided for their representative among the partners. It should be noted that the Alliance of Associations “Žuvininkų rūmai” defended and still defends the interests of most of these undertakings. It shows the continued ignorance of the Alliance of Associations “Žuvininkų rūmai”. A question can reasonably be posed as to who will become the social-economic partner and who will represent and defend the interests of these 60 fishing undertakings in the Monitoring Committee during the period of 2014-2020?!

A minister’s order has superiority over the LAW in Lithuania

By Order No D1-267 of 8 March 2010, Minister of Environment Gediminas Kazlauskas prohibited commercial fishing in Kaunas Reservoir and the upper basin of Kruonis Pumped Storage Plant (KPSP) as of 1 January 2013 (Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 2010, No 29-1365).
A number of scientists, lawyers, businessmen, specialists and politicians argue that the order on the prohibition of commercial fishing in Kaunas Reservoir and Kruonis Pumped Storage Plant has no legal force and should therefore be considered NULL AND VOID as it is in prejudice of the Law on Fisheries of the Republic of Lithuania (Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 2000, No 1648). Article 6(1) of the Law maintains: “Fishing regulation measures shall be set and applied following the fisheries research data…” According to the research, in 2013 commercial fishermen could catch 65 tonnes of fish in Kaunas Reservoir and 15 tonnes of fish in the basin of Kruonis PSP.
Since 1 January 2013, the Ministry of Environment has not issued any permits for commercial fishermen to fish in Kaunas Reservoir and the basin of Kruonis PSP. The turbines of Kruonis PSP mince fish on a mass scale because the water current carries fish stocks from the basin straight into the turbines. The Ministry of Environment made a gross violation of the applicable law, while commercial fishermen incurred losses. A situation in 2014 is similar.
It should be noted that not once had a number of politicians, scientists, specialists and commercial fishermen explained about unlawful actions of the ministers of environment, Kazlauskas and Mazuronis, on the prohibition of commercial fishing in a number of water bodies in the meetings, discussions and conferences. No one has to this day officially reacted to the violations made by the ministers, whereas prohibitions are gaining an increasingly broad scope.
On 17 May 2013 Minister of Environment Valentinas Mazuronis issued the order prohibiting commercial fishing in all inland waters as of 1 January 2015, with the exception of the Curonian Lagoon and the specialised fishing of certain fish (Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 2013, No 53-2648). It should be noted that upon conducting research, scientists have not to this day recommended the prohibition of commercial fishing in any of the water bodies. Many are unsettled by questions as to how much longer the violations of LAWS are going to last in Lithuania, who will take responsibility in respect of fishermen for the damages caused and who will be punished for the violation of laws.
Some 8 years ago the leaders of politics and public administration started declaring that commercial fishermen catch a lot of fish; they poach and interfere with recreational fishing. The smearing propaganda targeted at commercial fishermen was created and handed over to recreational fishermen for the fight against commercial fishermen hoping that a lot of recreational fishermen would vote for the parliamentary candidates defending the interests of recreational fishermen. The opinion was massively promoted by all means possible that commercial fishermen were poaching on a mass scale and catching all the fish. Minister of Environment Valentinas Mazuronis was especially talented in refining the black technologies of despising and smearing commercial fishermen. Rumour has it that thanks to them he has been elected a member of the European Parliament in 2014. Attention should be paid that according to the applicable law the activities of about 140 fishing undertakings in internal waters are strictly governed by legal acts. Reasonable people understand that commercial fishermen, who obtain permits for fishing in some 100 water bodies, cannot catch all the fish in the remaining 3000 lakes, 1500 ponds and 29000 rivers, rivulets and channels. Politicians and public officials succeeded in sowing discontent between recreational and commercial fishermen and winning some extra votes in electoral campaigns. Supposedly, ministers Kazlauskas and Mazuronis issued unlawful orders as a thank-you to some politicians and recreational fishermen and terrorise commercial fishermen, WHEREAS OTHER LITHUANIAN LEADERS AND POLITICIANS KEEP SILENT AND DO NOT REACT BECAUSE, APPARENTLY, THEY ARE EXPECTING THE VOTES OF RECREATIONAL FISHERMEN IN THE FUTURE.
Even school graduates know that the LAW has supremacy over a minister’s order, though some politicians and public officials still think that the order of ministers, especially that of Valentinas Mazuronis, is more important and has more powers than the LAW ON FISHERIES OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA.
The programming documents for 2014-2020 have much to say about the economic growth, creation of new jobs, support to coastal and land communities. However, it is not without reason that nothing is told about the negative phenomena, about the destruction of fishing business in inland waters, about the increase of social exclusion and unemployment. While the small fishing business in the world is promoted, Lithuania, on the contrary, is on a mission to destruct it.
Plenty of similar facts can be found in Lithuania.
Perhaps it can explain why:
1 million ha of land lies waste in Lithuania and huge sums are paid for people not to cultivate their land, while dozens of people in the world are starving. Lithuania has the highest emigration level in the whole EU. Lithuania has one of the lowest wages in the EU, while the prices of goods and services are approaching the European level. Lithuania is the leader by the number of suicides in the EU. Lithuania takes THE FIRST POSITION among the EU Member States by alcohol consumption per person – each resident of our country consumes the average amount of 15.4 l of absolute ethyl alcohol.

President L. Kerosierius
of the Alliance of Associations “Žuvininkų rūmai”



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